Monday, January 09, 2012

Parenting Purgatories

If there's anything this past weekend has taught me, it's this...

Nothing has driven me to drink like parenthood has. NOTHING, I tell you.

It's not like one can choose the sex of their baby (not yet), but when I first found out I was going to have one, I initially thought it might be a girl. At 20 weeks gestation, I found out it was otherwise (hey, 50/50 chance). At the time, hormones amplified some of my more histrionic fixations and pronouncements, and, on observing how eager children's clothiers were to have 14-month-olds dress like J-Lo and Britney (aka, twentysomething skankdom), I was relieved that a boy was coming our way in another 20 weeks or so. "Look at this!" I'd holler, yanking my friends into the Children's Place just to show them the macrame halter tops for toddlers and shout a little more. "We used to have to scour thrift stores in our teenage years to dress like this, and now it's mainstream!!! And it's all PINK! What the hell????"

This past Saturday, I found a major downside to boys is dealing with the effects of team sports when they are no longer just a fun game. Granted, my son is most likely not going to be the next David Wright, but he likes baseball - or at least the idea of it he loves that is presented in The Sandlot. You know, the camaraderie among teammates that can possibly lead to some life lessons and lifelong friendships.

Problem is, he said something that alienated him from his teammates, caused the coach not to trust him, and I was the one chewed out for it.

I was in shock - suddenly I was a bad parent because my son said one (admittedly) dumb, selfish thing. I was made to feel smaller than small by a guy who was supposed to be a role model for 9-10-year-olds.   I was induced to worry that, because of one mistaken thing said by my just-turned-9-year-old, the kid would possibly never again have a future with his peers because he messed with team camaraderie. It still hits me even now, the dressing down I got from someone who only cared about winning (in what was supposed to be a noncompetitive off-season set of games) and not about the reasons why a kid might say such a thing. Title IX may have ensured that coaches like this appear in girls' sports as well, but there seems to be a much longer tradition of them trying to teach boys that winning isn't everything, it's the only thing, and with way less panache than Vince Lombardi. Verbally whaling on a nine-year-old for such a transgression is pretty damned bad, but going after me? Yeah, that really works...Thank God I have a levelheaded spouse who put it into better perspective for me and the little guy, but being on the other end of such wrath isn't easy no matter what age you are.

And, speaking of wrath...hell hath no fury like a community deciding to go completely bonkers over school renovations. As though a lawsuit against the city over the possible traffic much-needed construction work on a neighborhood school building will bring to the streets isn't bad enough, the school's parent listserv is going up in flames over the temporary school site. As far as the temporary site goes, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was, but then I saw it when it still looked like this:

Driving out to the new campus was also mostly traffic-free despite its Gentilly location being pretty far out from where we live on the gray brick road (although I'm told that will change once UNO is back in session). It was also still a sobering drive, as the site is surrounded by mostly empty lots, some too-new homes, some still-vacant gutted houses, a small shopping center struggling to get new tenants in, and a spanking new Holy Cross school campus relocated from its flooded-out former location in the Ninth Ward and built on the grounds of the now-demolished St Francis Cabrini church. So many ghosts of recent making are still being exorcised out there. I hope the kids' presence will help it all.

I also hope that the battles over this one school renovation being chronicled so well by a hyperlocal are not going to set a nasty precedent...but it's amazing what kinds of things can be seemingly justified by that phrase "For the children..." Trying to undo decades of damage done through neglect and outright theft from those same children should not be this fraught with insanity.

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